... has been getting a fair bit of press for all the wrong reasons, like being linked to election fraud.
Really, though, it is meant to give people who are (most likely) not around on election day the opportunity to still cast their vote.
This very concept implies that postal votes need to be cast well in advance of the actual election. Or at least that seems obvious to me. To those who don't see it that way, let me explain:
The London election for mayor is on 3 May 2012.
I am freelance and when I work, it's mostly abroad.
The likelihood of me not being in London on any given day is fairly high, so I registered for postal voting.
The polling cards for non-postal voters arrived in the mail around late March, if I remember correctly. Let's be generous and say they arrived at the beginning of April. I received, about a week later, a letter informing me that I should get worried and call for assistance "if I have not received" my "postal voting papers by 27 April". A Friday. Seven calendar days before the election, and just before a weekend. Say I didn't get the papers. The earliest anyone could do something about it is by Monday.
Assuming also that I opted for postal voting because - remember? - I would presumably not be there on Thursday. And - in my case - not on Wednesday nor on Tuesday and Monday, either. That's my chance to vote gone to hell.
If then, as in my case, you are also away all the week that the postal voting papers are being sent out, you can see how tight time gets.
In my case, I did find the papers on Saturday 28 April. Now it's Monday, and I've finally had time to fill in the ballot papers, spending too much time again considering who to vote for. Stupid me for taking it all so seriously, right?
Now I'm not sure if I trust the Royal Mail to get the letter to the right place on time. I may take the envelope to the polling station in person on the day. But then again, just like the Monday to Thursday job in Holland didn't happen, anybody can call me now for work on Thursday. So either I pay at least one day's fee for my right to vote, or I waive it altogether.
I used postal voting to cast my vote in German elections while I already lived in the UK, and I always had plenty of time to fill in the papers in a considered manner and send them off without worrying the time would be too short for my vote to make it into the count.
Receiving postal voting papers within 4 business days of the election is clearly not enough time.
That should worry people just as much as the alleged fraud, because it may mean that people who are perfectly entitled to it, are robbed of their vote, because either their filled-in ballot papers are still in the mail when the counting begins, or they themselves were already gone by the time their papers finally land on their door mat.